5 Ways Social Media Can Facilitate Offline Networking
In a recent interview, I spoke about how anyone can use online networking to facilitate offline networking. Whether you're an introvert, extrovert or in between, you can leverage the online world in order to gain that face-to-face recognition that we all crave out of our business.
Yes, we crave face-to-face interaction. Because no matter how much we may love social media or our technology, or even our comfy bed, at the end of the day, as humans, we need human interaction.
Not to mention as a business, we need to find clients. And while some businesses find all their clients online, you can't spend all your time cooped up inside. You need to go to networking meetings, consult with clients in person, speak at events and so on. Anything and everything to get the word out about who you are, what you have to offer and why people should work with you.
Now-a-days, social media is playing a huge role in networking, whether you meet someone in person and find their social networks later or you find their networks first and connect with them in person later; so much information about the person and their business can be found by a couple clicks of a mouse.
Many will debate whether social media is actually making things easier or harder. Some say that social media is taking the fun out of getting to know someone personally. While others say it's a great resource to find things out about a business or person before even meeting them.
I say, it's both.
We should use social media to learn about a company and/or person, but we shouldn't use it as a crutch. We need to be able to get to know people face-to-face as well.
So how can you use social media to facilitate offline networking?
1. Networking events: I find networking events on LinkedIn, Facebook, Meetup.com & even Twitter, I then sign up for it, and if I can, I'll look at who else is going and try to find out a bit about each attendee. This way I'm not totally lost at who all will be there. If the attendance list isn't public, I'll get to know the event really well and figure out who generally attends.
2. One-on-one: I've connected with people IRL from Facebook & Twitter on a pretty consistent basis. Whether it was to chat about a collaboration or for potential business or even just to grab a cup of coffee and chat; it all started online. Whether it was a simple tweet to mention we're in the same town and business, or a simple Facebook message to say I loved their latest post. I never come off as if I want to meet them in person until a few messages in and can be certain that they wouldn't mind meeting up. Take it slow.
3. Meetup.com: I've mentioned meetup.com above and before about how easy it is to join a variety of groups online and eventually offline. The point of meetup.com is to find people with similar interests (personal or business) and meetup with them in person to talk about 'em. You can also find groups that might be interested in having you speak to their group (I've gotten many speaking engagements this way!).
4. Do your research: I don't know about you, but I like to use the resources at my finger tips to do my research on someone I'm about to meet so that I'm not at a total loss. It's like going to a job interview, you get to know your new employer so that you can bring up certain tidbits about them and impress your interviewer. It's the same concept, but in this case, you're coming up with talking points so that you can facilitate conversation and hopefully open up conversation to lots of different topics.
5. Don't always have an agenda: Interact to interact, don't always have an agenda behind why you're interacting. Such as, you want that person to be your client, or you want that persons help with someone or whatever. Take the time to reach out to people who you think would be awesome to talk to online and offline. Start it off slow and friendly like, "Wow, I loved your latest blog post!" or, "Hey, you're only an hour to the north of me, isn't that convenient. " I've gotten a lot of coffee invites from people I've interacted with and I've also given out plenty of coffee invites. I never forget a coffee invite.
So while it may be scary to think about whether that person will actually reply to begin with, what's worse:
Never trying and regretting what could have been....
Trying to the best of your ability and getting rejected.